Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars- Fandom and Convergence Culture in 21st Century Media

Hi Guys,

I am soo so sorry for the late post! No excuses, but had forgotten that we switched even though we talked about it in class. Hopefully some people can still get some comments up, but regardless I will be able/ready to fascilitate a discussion in person at least.


Digital Medias have caused a Rise in amateur film makers adapting/spoofing and reworking past texts such as Star Wars. This rise in amateur film making can be traced/similar to what the Punk DYI culture was to Music- Experimentation created new sounds, new artists, new techniques, and relations to consumers, which then was brought into mainstream culture. This can be seen as convergence culture interacting with subcultures and often alternative forms of mass media.

Within Convergence Culture, everyone’s a participant, although participants have different degrees of status and influence.

Interactivity and Participation are different:

  • Interactivity– refers to the ways that new technologies have been designed to be more responsive to consumer feedback. In almost every case, what you can do in an interactive environment is prestructured by the designer.
  • Participation– Is shaped by cultural and social protocols. More open-ended, less under the control of media producers and more under the control of media consumers.

The Web allows consumers to participate in the production and distribution of Cultural Goods and Media. In the future, producers most accommodate consumers demand to participate or run risk of losing most active and passionate consumers.

There are two characteristic responses by media industries to this grassroots/participatory movement:

  • Seeking to regulate and criminalize many forms of fan participation (prohibitionists)
  • Collaborationists are trying new approaches that see fans as important collaborators in production of content and grassroots intermediates to help grow and spread the content

History of Folk, Pop, Mass, Convergence culture:

  • Folk Culture: originally how stores and songs were passed between generations, however did not expect any compensation. No pure boundary between the emergent commercial culture and the residual folk culture: Commercial culture raided folk culture and vice versa
  • 20th century- displacement of folk culture by mass media
  • Many Scholars make distinction between:
    •  Mass Culture– A category of Production
    • Popular Culture- category of consumption- what people do with production of mass culture when it is present to them, or what happens to mass culture when it goes back towards folk culture. (fans creating/altering and making own meaning)

21st century: Public reemergence of grassroots creativity

  • Everyday people use these new technologies that enable them to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content.
  • Web gives people the ability to share what they create (which makes it more worthwhile/fun) with a mass audience and friends
  • Web also allows for feedback, through a wide distribution system, so these amateurs can get better.
  • Often what the public creates, models itself, interacts or reacts and repurposes stuff we are given through commercial culture.
  • Convergence Culture– Borrows from older and various media and mixes it with these new technologies
  • Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998- Sought to give more control to mass media producers over their intellectual property. Away from Cultural Commons towards intellectual property.

George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise has fallen in the middle of Collaborationists and Prohibitionists– Shutting down most fan fiction, promoted some fan videos, but limited what they can make, while working with gamers to better their multiplayer game. Star Wars has had a major impact / can be looked at as early study on how fans participate with text:

  • For Star Wars fan videos- Light Saber effect is the gold standard
  • Star Wars Revelations- more than a million download on the web
  • Lucas’s Decision to defer salary for the first Stars Film in favor of minting share of ancillary profits has been cited as turning point in emergence of new strategy of media production and distribution. Generating profit beyond the films release, through merchandising, revitalizing market for soundtracks, logo use, production of original novels, comic books, etc..
  • Lucas wants fans to participate and produce, but draws the line at some point (mainly with Zines containing sexual reworking/creations of the story through Erotica). Wants it to be celebrated but not appropriated. Gaming division of company more open to fan collaboration then film division.
  • created star wars.com free web space for Star Wars fan fiction, however claimed all intellectual rights to anything posted. There was a movement not to participate, with no compensation.
  • Designated atomfilms.com official host for star wars fan films, however must be parody or documentary of fan experience, no fan fiction, and couldn’t use copyrighted music or video.
  •  Why we care about star wars fan movies, is to find what caused viewers to share and consumer an amateur attempt.

Transformation of Mass Media and participating fan culture, and how the industry is reacting and changing thinking:

Taking from multiplayer games as starting to pave the way, Koster says “its not just a game. It’s a service, its a world, its a community”.

  • Koster creates online forum for fans to discuss, and make suggestions to game. creating rise of User (or Consumer) Generated Content
  • Evan Mathers action figure films mixing movies with anarchic humor, but have visual sophistication. We see it (this amateur story telling) brought back into main stream media – Action League Now!!! (1994) and Celebrity Deathmatch, mimicked Mather with mismatched dolls, and aesthetics.
  • Marketers have tried to make consumers “walking, talking billboards who we are logos on their t-shirts” so they help brand and market the content.
  • Companies are giving out mixed signals because they still don’t know what kind of relationship they want to have with the new generation of consumers
  • Amateur Films- Now with digital technologies and web, can create trailers, posters, and insight/behind the scenes content for their work and highlights that they are very public. Use to be ‘home movies’ lacking distribution method. VCR and camcorder didn’t so much to help, as Zimmermann called it almost a “privatized, almost silly hobby.”

Parody, Documentaries, and Fan Fiction:

There has been a distinction that parody (which is seen to be more acceptable on the legal front) is mainly created by men. Whereas, Fan Fiction is almost solely created by women (using a more emotional tone and creating their own versions of the text).

  •  slash- creating erotic relationships between same-sex characters.

These fan fiction movies, often stay private and distributed through closed, non official channels


Returning to Folk Culture analogy- These subcultural groups (fan fiction) are not going to return to invisibility, will just go farther underground, like in the past and won’t stop creating, therefore a participatory environment is necessary.

Argues, while agreeing with McCracken, need to let fans participate or the value of their content may be compromised. Moving more and more towards participatory culture. Losing copyright control will attract the most dedicated, and active consumers.

Relationship with fans: Allowing them to participate is vital for the survival of a franchise. Need to make sure content reflects fans interests, create a space where they can contribute, and then taking the best work that emerges from that to better the franchise.

Web offers a place for experimentation and Innovation- The best of this amateur work then is absurd into mainstream media for commercial purposes. Fan works can no longer be understood as simply derivative of mainstream materials, but as themselves open to appropriation and reworking by these media industries.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Do you think major media companies are doing a good job adapting to this demand for a more participatory culture? If so, what examples can you think of lately, and if not, why?
  2. Where do you think is the threshold or line in which Intelectual Property is violated when fans create these fiction works, or new content, if any?
  3. Do you think Jenkins is right in that in order to keep fans coming back/the survival of a franchise, there lies a dependency on focusing on fan interest and wants, or that media producers should instead create the stories they want to create?